The week preceding Easter is the most important period in the calendar for all Christians, including those in the Armenian Church. Christians around the world decorate their homes and places of worship with lilies, intricately colored eggs, and wooden crosses draped with a single white or purple cloth. Christians present special concerts and pageants and participate in solemn services on Thursday in remembrance of Jesus’ last supper with His twelve closest followers, and on Friday in remembrance of His death on a Roman cross. Over two thousand years ago on a hill named Golgotha outside the city of Jerusalem, Jesus died.
The mood of the celebrants is decidedly different on Easter Sunday. The worshippers put off their solemn rituals and faces. Wearing new, or at least their best clothes, people greet each other with “He is risen” and “He is risen indeed.” Church bells peal joyous sounds. In remembrance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the celebrants and their spiritual leaders, priests, vicars, and pastors are joyful. In their teachings that day, they proclaim that since Jesus died for the people’s sins and rose again to give believers new and eternal life, the believers have every reason to rejoice.
In the world of Islam, however, none of the above occurs. My Muslim students not only emphatically told me that Jesus is not God’s son, they also told me that Jesus didn’t die. According to them, Jesus was a prophet whom God took to heaven because he was a good man. There was no death and no resurrection. So the Muslims I have talked to are in complete denial of Christendom’s Holy Week.
Hmmm. … They evidently know nothing of world history or are trying their best to rewrite it. And they definitely haven’t read the Injil, the four Gospels in God’s Word. It says: “And he [Jesus] bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha; where they [the Roman soldiers] crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (Gospel of John 19: 17 & 18). “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19: 30). “Then took they [Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus] the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury…. There [in a new sepulchre] laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (John 19: 40 & 42).
“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. … And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Gospel of Matthew 28: 1,2,5, & 6).
“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene out of whom he had cast seven devils” (Gospel of Mark 16:9). “And as they [Cleopas and his friend] thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them [Jesus’ eleven closest followers] and saith unto them, Peace be unto to you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Gospel of Luke 24: 36-39).
See? Even Jesus’ closest followers were dumbfounded by His death and resurrection. When they recovered from their shock, they rejoiced and, with great excitement, told everybody about it.
So, along with other Christians, Armenians rejoice on Easter Sunday because Jesus Christ’s death provides salvation from their sins and His resurrection gives hope for eternal life with God in heaven to both men and women.
From the beginning of His life to His death and resurrection, Jesus was living proof that there is a God and He loves each and every person. Jesus is God’s love letter to you and me.
The Muslim Turks of the Ottoman Empire couldn’t have been more wrong in their decisions in 1915. They chose to slaughter their Armenian neighbors, a people who could have shown the ultimate hope for both life on this earth and eternal life with God. Why kill hope, I ask you? How does killing Christian believers save a nation, let alone an individual? Has the nation of Turkey (that evolved out of the Ottoman Empire) benefited from the extermination of its Christian population? Perhaps modern-day Turkey is more like the cows in an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh’s dream. “And the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them; for they were just as ugly as before” (Genesis 41: 20 & 21). The Ottoman Turks planned and carried out the elimination of Turkey’s Armenian population, took over their lands and businesses, and stole all their property. Yet the greedy swallowing of so much left Turkey no better off after World War I than it was before.
So where is hope today – for Armenian Christians, North American Christians, the people of the world in general, even Muslim Turks? Denial of Jesus’ death and resurrection might delay a clear view of our Heaven Father’s expression of love for all people. But rewriting history doesn’t change HIS story.The risen Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross still stands as the greatest hope for the present and the future.